Africa Media Review for September 8, 2021

Guinean Political Prisoners Freed, Regional Bloc to Discuss Coup
Guinea’s military leaders have freed scores of political prisoners before a meeting of West African leaders to discuss their response to Sunday’s coup that ousted President Alpha Conde. At least 80 political prisoners detained by Conde were released on Tuesday evening. Some had campaigned against his attempt to stay in power for a third term after altering the constitution to permit it, a move opponents said was illegal. West African countries have threatened sanctions following Conde’s overthrow and a regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was due to convene a virtual summit on Wednesday. Coup leader Mamady Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire, has pledged to install a unified, transitional government but has not said when or how that will happen. Doumbouya also met the heads of Guinea’s various military branches for the first time on Tuesday, hoping to unify the country’s armed forces under the junta’s command. Guinea’s main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, who finished runner-up to Conde in three successive elections, told Reuters on Tuesday he would be open to participating in a transition back to constitutional governance. Reuters

How the Coup in Guinea Could Raise Car Prices — or Foster Better Deals for Its People
Gunfire was still crackling around Guinea’s presidential palace when the panic began over the future of the country’s natural riches. The West African nation boasts the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, a key source of aluminum for foil, soda cans and cars. The reddish rock became a symbol of hope and despair under President Alpha Condé, who turned Guinea into a top exporter before soldiers ousted him Sunday in an apparent coup d’etat. Some West Africans bemoaned a democratic backslide. Others celebrated the downfall of an unpopular leader who, critics say, enabled foreign mining companies to wreck farmland and drinking water. … Guinea accounted for a tiny sliver of global bauxite production when Condé took office in 2010. Eleven years later, that share had surged to 22 percent — thanks to a massive deal the president struck with China. Beijing agreed in 2017 to loan Conakry $20 billion for much-needed infrastructure over the next two decades in exchange for bauxite concessions. These days, more than two dozen international firms mine in the country, including companies from the United States, France and Australia. … “People see the bauxite pass, but they do not feel the benefits,” said Aboubacar Sidiki Mara, secretary general of the General Union of Workers of Guinea, which represents thousands of miners. The rock extractors make an average of $5 per day, Mara said, and they often work in hazardous environments. Companies face little to no oversight, fueling a hotbed of labor abuses. “The evil of our country,” Mara said, “lies in the weakness of our institutions.” The Washington Post

ECOWAS Warns Mali’s Progress towards February Polls Insufficient
West Africa’s main regional bloc says it is concerned Mali’s transitional government has not made sufficient progress towards organising elections early next year, as agreed after a military coup last year. In a statement, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Tuesday that it remained “worried by the lack of concrete action” to prepare for the vote, which has been promised for February 2022 by coup leader and current interim President Colonel Assimi Goita. The announcement came at the end of a three-day mission to Mali led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Mali’s transition back to democracy following the August 2020 overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is being closely watched in a region that has experienced four coups since last year, most recently in Guinea on Sunday. After the coup, Mali’s military leaders agreed, under pressure from ECOWAS, to an 18-month transition, culminating in presidential and legislative elections in February 2022. They had also agreed to set October 31 as a date for holding a constitutional referendum. But various electoral deadlines, including the start of updates to voter rolls and the presentation of a new constitution, have not been met. The transition was dealt a further setback in May when Goita, who led the initial coup, ordered the arrest of the interim president and then took over the role himself. Al Jazeera

Burkina Faso, Mali Agree Joint Force against Jihadists
Burkina Faso and Mali agreed Tuesday to mount joint military operations against jihadist groups who have ravaged Africa’s Sahel region, Malian Defence Minister Sadio Camara said Tuesday. On a visit to the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, Camara met with Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to discuss the security situation in the region and bilateral cooperation, the Malian minister said. Since emerging in northern Mali in 2012, jihadists groups have expanded into Burkina Faso as well as Niger. Violence has ravaged the countries notably in the “three borders” region, a huge territory straddling the frontiers of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso that has long been troubled by land feuds, trafficking, desertification and a fragile state presence. Thousands have died and millions have fled their homes. AFP

How the Death of Gaddafi Is Still Being Felt by Libya’s Neighbours
Ten years on, observers say the unintended consequences of the toppling of Gaddafi — a dictator whose 42-year rule was marked by corruption and systematic human rights abuses — in August 2011 and his assassination two months later can be seen far beyond Libya: in migrant deaths in dinghies on the Mediterranean Sea, slave camps and brothels on land; and in the collapse in security across the western Sahel that has killed thousands, displaced millions and sunk France into what some consider its own “forever” war. “Libya became a kind of ventre mou — a vulnerable point — for all the neighbouring countries,” says Mathias Hounkpe, head of the Mali country office for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa. “Mali, Niger, Chad, all these countries to some extent are having problems because we do not have stability in Libya.” In Libya, the impact has been devastating. … “These insurgencies in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali were somehow just ready to break out and just needed a sort of push, a trigger,” [Yvan Guichaoua, a Sahel specialist at the UK’s University of Kent] says. “And Libya was this trigger.” … “A lot of things have happened since [2011],” says Daniel Eizenga, a research fellow at the US defence department’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “But . . . the fall of Gaddafi is really a key moment for at least unleashing that set of crises — it’s just a cascading set of events from there.” FT

Libya Says Top Jihadist Fugitive Embarak Al-Khazimi Arrested
Libyan authorities said Tuesday that government forces have arrested a senior Islamic State group (IS) figure in an operation south of the capital Tripoli. Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah of the North African country’s interim government wrote on Twitter that the capture of Embarak al-Khazimi was “a great success for our security forces.” Libya’s chief prosecutor had sought Khazimi with a warrant since 2017. His arrest “will allow us to gather vital information about IS and bring a dangerous terrorist to justice,” Dbeibah added. Forces from the interior and defence ministries had earlier announced Khazimi’s arrest at Bani Walid, around 170 kilometres (105 miles) from Tripoli on the northern fringe of the Libyan desert. … IS jihadists set up base in the towns of Sirte and Derna before being driven out in 2016 and 2018. The group’s members are now holed up in the desert or hiding among the population along the coast, but remain a threat to the country and its neighbours. AfricaNews with AFP

Millions Face Hunger Crisis as Conflict Engulfs Northern Ethiopia
The World Food Program warns that emergency food needs in northern Ethiopia are increasing, as conflict spills beyond the embattled Tigray region into neighboring Afar and Amhara provinces. The agency reports that up to 7 million people are acutely short of food and are facing a hunger crisis. They include more than 5.2 million people in Tigray who are dependent on U.N. food aid for survival. Additionally, the World Food Program reports the conflict, which has now engulfed the entire region, has thrust 1.7 million more people into hunger. This month, WFP has begun delivering emergency food assistance to communities in Ethiopia’s northern region and says it plans to reach 530,000 people in Afar and 250,000 in Amhara with food aid. Meanwhile in Tigray, WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says the situation continues to deteriorate. He says aid agencies are struggling to meet the urgent food needs of more than 5 million people across the war-torn region. … Phiri says WFP has only managed to get 355 trucks into the region since mid-July. While this sounds like much, he says it is not. He says 355 trucks represents less than 10 percent of the supplies needed. He says 100 trucks must enter Tigray every day to meet people’s food requirements. VOA

COVID-19: Ethiopia Confirms First Delta Variant Cases
Ethiopia on Tuesday officially confirmed the first cases of the highly infectious Covid-19 Delta variant. At a press briefing, Health Minister Dr Lia Tadesse, however, did not specify the number of cases confirmed or where they were detected. A few weeks ago, she had announced that a study was underway to see if the variant was already in Ethiopia. According to the Ministry, coronavirus infections have risen sharply in recent weeks. Dr Liya noted that the number of people contracting Covid-19, becoming seriously ill or dying in recent weeks has increased at an alarming rate. “The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units is surging,” she said. The minister warned Ethiopians that the Delta variant is more infectious and deadlier than the previous ones. Ethiopia’s confirmed Covid-19 cases stand at 313,000, with 4,700 deaths and 285,904 recoveries. The government is now urging members of the public to get vaccinated and adhere to Covid-19 rules. So far, more than 2.5 million people have been vaccinated in Ethiopia, against a population of over 120 million. Nation

Somalia on Edge as President, PM Clash over Intelligence Chief
Somalia’s two most powerful leaders were locked in a deepening standoff on Wednesday after they named different men to head the politically unstable Horn of Africa nation’s intelligence service. The open row between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, nominally over a murder investigation, marks an escalation of months of tensions between them in a country already riven by attacks and clan rivalries. … Meanwhile, the United Nations, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the United States, the European Union, and East African bloc IGAD pressed the country’s leaders to end their dispute as a matter of urgency. “We urge Somali leaders to de-escalate the political confrontation surrounding this investigation and, in particular, avoid any actions that could lead to violence,” they said on Tuesday in a statement released by the UN assistance mission in Somalia. “We … [call] for a rapid resolution of this dispute, including a credible investigation of Ikran’s disappearance and the completion of the electoral process without any further delay.” Somalia’s parliamentary polls are now scheduled to kick off between October 1 and November 25 following months of delays. The vote for the lower house follows a complex indirect model whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president. Al Jazeera

Uganda Accuses Opposition MPs over Machete Killings
Ugandan police questioned two prominent opposition lawmakers accused of orchestrating a wave of grisly murders by machete-wielding gangs. … Ugandan police spokesperson Fred Enanga said 12 people had already been charged with murder and terrorism and another 11 were in custody. He said some of the suspects told police that MPs Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Sewanyana had organised the attacks “to cause fear in the population and cause people to hate the government.” The two men – who belong to opposition leader Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) – were being questioned by police for a second day on Tuesday. But Wine, the popstar turned politician whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, claimed the accusations were part of a plot by the government of President Yoweri Museveni to vilify the opposition. “When the president said recently (the) opposition was behind the killings we thought it was a bad joke. But when the police summoned our MPs, we knew the grand plan by (the) regime to implicate NUP leaders in the killings was being implemented,” he said.  Museveni won a sixth term after a disputed election in January that Wine, who came second to the veteran leader and has repeatedly been targeted by the authorities, says was rigged. “No matter what Museveni’s regime does, one day Uganda will be liberated and those framed for crimes because they are from the opposition will be freed,” Wine said. AFP

Erdogan, Tshisekedi Discuss Turkey-Africa Relations
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi will wrap up his two-day official visit to Turkey on Wednesday. Tshisekedi was received at the presidential palace in Ankara by his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday. The visit is the first by a Congolese president. Their talks focused on bilateral cooperation and relations between Turkey and Africa. According to the Congolese presidency, the two leaders also expressed their common desire to increase trade between the 2 countries with the objective of reaching a volume of 250 million USD in the medium term. Turkey has increased its presence in Africa in recent years. The number of Turkish diplomatic missions on the continent has increased from 12 in 2002 to 43 this year. The country’s national carrier, Turkish Airlines, serves 53 passenger destinations in Africa in 2021, up from just 18 in 2011. Turkish interests in Africa include trade, investment, culture, security, military cooperation, among others. Tshisekedi and Erdogan also discussed preparations for the third Turkey-Africa summit expected to be held in October. AfricaNews

Villages and Farms Swept Away by Flash Floods across Sudan
Flash floods following torrential rains have left a swath of destruction across Sudan. Entire farms and villages have been swept away, the capital Khartoum has been hit hard, and essential road links disrupted, while there are concerns that floods will also inundate the camps hosting thousands of South Sudanese refugees. Reports reaching Radio Dabanga from White Nile state say that the floods swept away 17 villages in the Administrative Unit of Jouda in El Jebelein locality in. Large tracts of agricultural areas have been swept away, drowning an untold number of livestock. The floods forced the residents to leave their villages for higher places, while some of them took shelter with their relatives. Sources said that an area 10 kilometres wide is submerged under a metre of flood water, that descended from the south-east from the Um Dalous khor (streambed). The sources indicate that the floods threaten to flood 15 other areas, including the refugee camps for South Sudanese, and threaten to cut off the road linking Sudan with South Sudan. Preliminary inventory operations are now underway to find out the losses and damages to homes, educational facilities, agricultural areas. and livestock. The rains and floods caused the erosion of the national road from Atbara to Port Sudan, in the Houdi area on Monday morning. … Heavy rains and flooding have affected over 88,000 people in 13 out of Sudan’s 18 states since the start of the rainy season in July, according to the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC). Radio Dabanga

‘Dramatic’ Nigerian Oil Reforms Hit Slow Start
Drivers in Lagos last week were paying N162 ($0.40) per litre of petrol, among the lowest rates in Africa — beneficiaries of a fuel subsidy that costs the continent’s biggest crude producer billions of dollars a year. It was a reminder that while Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari signed a big oil industry reform act last month — which dictates that fuel should be sold at market prices — little is likely to change soon in Nigeria’s moribund oil industry, or the economy that relies on it. The bill, first put forward more than two decades ago, will create separate regulatory bodies, commercialise the national oil company and bolster the nascent gas sector, moves the government say will help attract billions of dollars of new investment. In a concession to oil companies, which had long clamoured for more fiscal certainty, it will simplify and reduce some royalties and taxes. But as the petrol pumps in Lagos made clear, the act, which came into effect upon Buhari’s signature, may take years to be fully implemented. After decades of calls for reform and business complaints about an opaque and unwieldy regulatory and fiscal structure, “at least now we have some clarity and semblance of direction for the industry,” said Kola Karim, chair of Nigerian oil company Shoreline. “It’s some of the best news coming out of Nigeria.” … One provision in the bill creates a fund that would allocate 3 per cent of spending on oil projects to the communities that surround them, which could provide millions of dollars to areas that have been economically and environmentally devastated by the oil industry over decades. But Fitch warned that “the impact [of the act] will depend on details of implementation.” FT



Photo: Adam Jones